Dear Evelyn is the winner of the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The jury citation reads:
“Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn tells the tender and unsettling story of working-class Londoner Harry Miles and the ambitious Evelyn Hill who fall in love as the world around them goes to war. What initially begins as a familiar wartime love story morphs into a startling tale of time’s impact on love and family, as well as one’s complex search for personal meaning and truth. By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skilfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, kathy page has created a poignant literary work of art. The result is a timeless page-turning masterpiece.”
Inspired by original love letters from the 1940’s, Dear Evelyn follows a seventy-year-long wartime marriage between two seemingly incompatible partners in sometimes tender, sometimes excruciating detail. Studded with allusions to poems and novels, it is set in locations that include London during the 1920s and 1940s, Tunisia during World War Two, the Cotswolds, a new post-war suburb, and a Mediterranean cruise ship.
The protagonist, Harry Miles, is born on a working-class London street, wins a scholarship, and grows into a sensitive man torn between a love of poetry and a more prosaic ability to understand what is required of him and do it. Evelyn, the magnetic and demanding woman whom he marries as WW2 breaks out, increasingly tests Harry’s capacity to love. This is a love story, albeit an unconventional one. It plunges the reader into Harry’s emotional life, and studies two people who shape each other in the course of a shared lifetime—withholding judgment as to whether this is, ultimately, for better, or for worse.
According to The Times Literary Supplement “…this tender portrait achieves the tautness of a thriller… Page has laid bare the lives of her characters, making no claims to their significance to anyone but each other, and in doing so has demonstrated that the ordinary is infinitely precious.” https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/cleaving-to-real-life/
The Globe and Mail: “a deep character study that makes one writhe and cringe and admire at the same time.. a novel of sadness about love and its waste, and about the humiliation of aging. It made me cry my eyes out.”
More Praise for Dear Evelyn
“The seven ages of man, and woman, are traced against the tremendous historical and social shifts of a switchback century…quietly hums with emotional charge. The war years, with Harry fighting in North Africa and Evelyn struggling with a young child at home, are especially vivid, but this watchful, empathetic chronicle retains sensitivity through the less obviously eventful decades of home-building and child-rearing….Page’s watchful and very British tale remains devoted to both and forgiving to the end. A searching, and touching, depiction of the places where married lives merge and the places where they never do.” Kirkus (starred review)
Quill & Quire: “Page’s finely wrought story – by turns tender, acid, and poignant – reminds us that marriage is a condition as infinitely variable as the individuals who enter into it… Page’s touching novel makes the ordinary extraordinary.”
The Guardian: “Page’s eighth novel is many things: a love story, a coming-of-age story, and a brilliantly evocative sketch of Britain in the 20th century.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/12/dear-evelyn-kathy-page-review
“A novel that will fill your heart, and break it, too.” Parry Sound North Star
“With tender, ruthless insight, Kathy Page exposes the secret machinations of a longstanding marriage in her brilliant new novel, Dear Evelyn. Caught in our own brief liaisons, we watch with longing (and horror) as Harry and Evelyn move from breathless first love to the divorce that death inevitably exacts. However you are coupled, you will never look at your partner the same way again.” Merilyn Simonds, author of The Convict Lover
“Dear Evelyn is not only the work of a sublime and compassionate imagination, but one that exhibits, extraordinarily, both the sweep of the epic novel and the taut concision of the short story. Page has reached across the generations to portray a couple through childhood, youth and middle age, right to the final humiliations of their advanced years. Intimately inhabiting their struggles, she has created a love story “both absurd and brave, both ordinary and magnificent.” This book about two lifetimes will stay with me through mine.” Caroline Adderson, author of Ellen in Pieces
“This is an outstanding novel: gripping and profound, richly imagined, fiercely intelligent. With emotional depth and flawless grasp of period, Kathy Page draws us into the lives of Harry and Evelyn as they confront two world wars, their own relationship, and the social challenges of the twentieth century.” Ronald Wright, author of The Gold Eaters and A Short History of Progress
“I know of no contemporary writer who deals so convincingly with love,” writes Paul Headrick in Evelyn, Harry and the Sick Rose. “Page consistently dramatizes the ways in which the feelings of intimate couples are puzzling mixtures of hope, lust, genuine caring, resentment, politics, and much else.” The Ormsby Review full review (does contain spoilers) here.
Kathy spoke with Sheryl Mackay on CBC’s North by Northwest in early December. Here’s the episode. The interview begins at 02:09:03 https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/north-by-northwest
The Literary Hoarders’ end of year review: Harry and Evelyn are 1 in Most Memorable Characters, the book is 3 in Most Beautifully Written Book, 5 in Best Books Read and 5 in Top CanLit….Even the jacket gets an honourable mention. Thanks, Penny! http://www.literaryhoarders.com/pe…/2018-year-end-in-review/ A Globe 100 Best Book of the Year: “Although the historical events … Continue reading Dear Evelyn on Books of the Year Lists
Dear Evelyn is the winner of the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The jury citation reads: “Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn tells the tender and unsettling story of working-class Londoner Harry Miles and the ambitious Evelyn Hill who fall in love as the world around them goes to war. What initially begins as a familiar wartime … Continue reading Dear Evelyn awarded the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction 2018
Dear Evelyn is a Kirkus Book of he Year 2018, and she is in good company. Kirkus Books of the Year 2018
Dear Evelyn in Maclean’s magazine : https://www.macleans.ca/culture/books/rogers-writers-trust-spotlight-on-kathy-page/ HOW I WROTE IT — Kathy Page interviewed about Dear Evelyn in CBC Books https://www.cbc.ca/books/how-her-father-s-war-time-love-letters-inspired-kathy-page-s-new-novel-1.4836272 BOOKS TO WATCH FOR in CBC Books https://www.cbc.ca/books/dear-evelyn-1.4761553
Elizabeth Lowry reviews Dear Evelyn in The Guardian: “Page’s eighth novel is many things: a love story, a coming-of-age story, and a brilliantly evocative sketch of Britain in the 20th century….. Its picture of Evelyn herself is authentically troubling, a study of a woman in the grip of terrible compulsions. The warning signs are there … Continue reading Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page reviewed in Guardian UK
Dear Evelyn is a finalist for the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction. The winner will be announced on 7th November in Toronto. Kathy Page’s fiction has previously been nominated for the Giller Prize (twice), and she has been a finalist for the Governor General’s and ReLit Awards.
From the Ormsby Review: Dear Evelyn, the 8th novel by Kathy Page of Salt Spring Island, concerns the courtship, love, and marriage of Harry Miles and Evelyn Hill from the tumultuous early days of the Second World War to their deaths decades later. I know of no contemporary writer who deals so convincingly with love,” writes … Continue reading Evelyn, Harry and the Sick Rose
Praise for Kathy Page
“Page…runs circles around authors who work twice as hard for half the reward… One of the most talented short-story writers working today delivered yet another knockout collection that is both darkly funny and terribly sad.” Globe and Mail
“A moving novel about knowledge, self-awareness and the power of words, set in the purgatory of prison. This young man’s life demands our attention and refuses to let go.” Kirkus starred review of Alphabet
“A complex book, and splendidly written, Alphabet is an intensely compelling reading experience that speaks to the power of words and the significance of language in all its dangerous subtleties.” The Edmonton Journal
“Alphabet is not just highly readable, but one of the strongest, most eloquent, most tightly constructed novels of the year…It is a measure of the quiet artistry of Alphabet that, out of material that would have been at home in the blackest of black comedies, Kathy Page has celebrated, with rare deftness, the resilience of the human heart.” — Sunday Telegraph
“Like children at a sleepover, tucked beneath shared covers, the stories whisper to one another, providing a thematic richness to the book that far outstrips its page count.” The Walrus on Paradise & Elsewhere
“One of the most complex characters I’ve ever met in a novel…” Victoria Times Colonist
“Emotionally resonant, poignant examinations of life and love and – most piercingly – death… Page is a highly skilled miniaturist, capable of pulling off powerful effects by way of simple (though never simplistic) prose and a keen eye for human fallibility and ambiguity.” Quill & Quire on The Two of Us